Trio teams up to tackle major construction project in Pooler - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Trio teams up to tackle major construction project in Pooler

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Two major employers for the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry are teaming up for a major traffic project.

The Savannah Hilton Head International Airport, Gulfstream and Ben Carter Enterprises are teaming up to help alleviate the congestion at Interstate 95 and Pooler Parkway.

Rewind to Jan. 21 to a Pooler Chamber luncheon with the Georgia Department of Transportation, when it was learned that the GADOT was not going to do any improvements to the interchange until after the Tanger Outlets Savannah were finished sometime in 2015.

There was a collective "ugh" from the group of business people there.  

Fast forward to today, where we learned the aforementioned trio, with some funds from the GADOT, have made what they call an interim plan for improvements.

 "We certainly hope to offer relief to people who use that interchange," said Greg Kelly, Executive Director for Savannah Hilton Head International.

Look no further than right up the street for relief. Kelly said the airport has been looking to improve their side of the exit, Airways Avenue, for a while, but they see the immediate need.

"We can't afford to have people backed up on the interstate and have another occurrence like the one that occurred at Port Wentworth exit," said Kelly. 

County Commissioner Dean Kicklighter echoed that sentiment.

"We shouldn't have to wait to have someone die, like we had in Port Wentworth," he said. "We need help now, and I applaud the work of the airport, Gulfstream, and Ben Farmer. We have major gridlock."

Gulfstream Vice President of Real Estate and Facilities Security, Joseph Drake, said this interim project had to be done while they waited for federal and state money.

"We had to get ahead of the curve, so we've been working with Greg and the City of Pooler and GADOT to say, 'Okay, we know this is coming. How do we alleviate the traffic that's coming?'"

The plan is to add a second left turn lane off I-95 northbound, extend the eastbound turn lane on Pooler Parkway to I-95 northbound and extend the westbound turn lane on Airways Avenue to I-95 south.

Kelly said all sorts of work has gone into bringing more carriers to Savannah, and he said he wants the whole experience of visiting the Hostess City, not just flying, to be a pleasant one.

"We want to make sure that when those people arrive here in Savannah for the first time and use this airport, that they don't encounter significant traffic jams leaving the airport or trying to get back to the airport," said Kelly

And as one of the largest employers, Gulfstream is looking out for their crew as well.

"We want to be a good neighbor," Drake said. "I know the pain of traffic coming from Northern Virginia, and we value our employees' family time, so we don't want somebody sitting in traffic for 30-45 minutes."

There are three stages of this project.

The immediate work has already started; timing of the lights.  Kelly has been working with the City of Savannah's Engineering Dept. to time the traffic lights at the exit, especially in the afternoons and on the busiest travel days, which they've identified as being Mondays and Thursdays.

The interim project is the one backed by the trio, which could begin as early as August and will cost $700,000, with $200,000 coming from GADOT and the remainder being split amongst Gulfstream, the airport, and Ben Carter Enterprises.

The long-term project is what the GADOT has in mind after the Tanger Outlets are in place. Those plans include extending the off-ramp from I-95 northbound and constructing a dedicated right-turn lane from eastbound Pooler Parkway to the I-95 southbound ramp, and that is just a preliminary plan.

Kicklighter said Pooler is exploding, and he said we need all the transportation money we can get. 

More so than Atlanta.

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